Civil Society Reflections on ADB’s COVID-19 OperationsNGO Forum on ADB
Tuesday, 4 May 2021, 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm
Indian Social Action Forum/Growthwatch
M. Zakir Hossain Khan
Honorary Executive Director, Change Initiative and Member, Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt
Safeguards Policy Coordinator, NGO Forum on ADB
Rene E. Ofreneo
President, Freedom from Debt Coalition
Managing Director General, ADB
Executive Director, NGO Forum on ADB
The NGO Forum on ADB's panel raised concerns on the accountability and transparency of the ADB COVID-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support Program (CARES). Nadeen Madkour, Vidya Dinker, Zakir Hossain Khan, and Rene Ofroneo composed the civil society organization (CSO) panel. They raised concerns about ongoing pandemic response, particularly in Bangladesh, India, and the Philippines. The panel cited that the pandemic exposed the weak capacities of public health systems, profiteering by private sector, and low public health expenditures in many Asian countries. The panel also sought more information and transparency on the bank’s COVID-19 response. The CSO panelists emphasized the severe local health challenges the pandemic has caused, particularly in poor communities and called for a new SDG-aligned social contract to protect the vulnerable and marginalized.
ADB's Woochong Um welcomed the collaboration with civil society and emphasized ADB's strict CARES monitoring framework. Mr. Um shared details of ADB’s quick response to the pandemic through a $20 billion comprehensive package for COVID-19 targeting health facilities, social safety nets, and social protection in April 2020 and the $9 billion Asia Pacific Vaccine Facility in December 2020 supporting safe vaccines procurement and deployment for its developing member countries. He acknowledged that universal health coverage was critical for the region and shared that ADB in its Strategy 2030 Operational Plan 1 has an increased focus on health and is investing more in human capital and social protection.
ADB is currently building its internal knowledge on health issues and is committed to addressing future pandemics and welcomes the opportunity to work with other stakeholders, including CSOs and the private sector. Mr. Um added that ADB’s pandemic-related project monitoring reports are publicly disclosed, but agreed that the bank must do a better job of disseminating this information more widely and offered to assist CSOs who lack information. The session was attended by 486 participants.